Energy discussions set against the sunset

CCTA 2017 Debrief

I just got back from the First IEEE Conference on Control Technology and Applications, which replaces the previous Multi-conference on Systems and Control.

First, having a conference in Hawaii is fantastic: morning snorkeling missions before the conference started, and sunset lab meetings on the beach. The downside of being at a resort was that a car was necessary to get off-site for dining and groceries.

Energy discussions set against the sunset

Discussing distributed optimization and energy research while watching the sunset at Mauna Lani Bay Resort. Pretty good spot for an impromptu lab meeting.

I focused on sessions in game theory, multi-agent systems, nonlinear systems, and, and power systems. Key research trends I noticed are coordinating drone fleets, obstacle avoidance and platooning in autonomous vehicles, and merging data-driven approaches with conventional control theory. This last trend is particularly interesting, and has a lot of space to explore: there is still very little use of deep learning and modern machine learning techniques in this field of controls, but potential benefits to both fields by uniting these approaches.

My presentation on our blockchain-controlled microgrids went extremely well, with a nearly-full room, useful questions, and nobody who fell asleep (a huge victory). I had some great feedback from audience members, who highlighted the following points:

  • Privacy: Regulators and consumers are deeply suspicious of any energy technology which might sacrifice privacy; blockchain-based approaches will also need to address this. This could potentially be addressed with zero-knowledge proofs, but will need additional research
  • Security: I haven’t yet explored the security limitations of blockchains, but this is the key differentiator for these tools. This will be my main focus over the coming weeks.
  • Market power: While our approach addresses some issues of trust and incentives for the aggregator, it doesn’t address household market power in distribution markets- a key challenge for distribution energy markets. Is it possible to address this?

I’m starting to see familiar faces and people who’ve presented at other conferences, and get an understanding of the key labs in this space. And I’m starting to understand the appeal of being an academic in this space- three days of absorbing knowledge in a beautiful location is quite a treat!

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